"I know I need to eat, but I'm just not hungry."
"Me neither. But we have to eat something."
"But I'm not hungry. Maybe we can just eat trail mix?"
This never happens to me when I travel. Normally, I'm tapping the time away with my foot impatiently, allowing temples and mountains and museums to pass by unseen as I wait impatiently for my next meal.
Nicaragua was different.
First of all, it was hot in our first city, Leon. Ferociously, dustily, windlessly hot. Sweat poured from us at the slightest movement and we slurped down smoothies one after the other. Eating anything on top of the smoothies seemed like it'd be exhausting just by virtue of the fact that we'd have to move our jaws.
Second of all, though we barely ate anything that first day, our stomachs somehow intuited we were in a foreign country and revolted immediately. Mine especially. This was a shock, given that I've eaten in street stalls all over southeast Asia, and drank smoothies that were presumably made with local water without so much as a grumble of protest from my stomach. It's always been too busy reveling in the joy of tropical fruit, and taking baths in fish sauce.
Third of all - and had this not been the case I probably could have ignored the first two - I didn't like any of the food. Any of it.
Now, before I move on, let me make clear that there were so many (non food-related) moments in which I felt so lucky to have made the trip. The bottoms of my feet turned white with fine dust from the top of the Leon Cathedral as the wind blew me across the roof towards the dusty red view of distant volcanoes. Our pickup bounced aggressively past spiky purple dragonfruit-sprouting cactuses on its way up to a waterfall-adjacent, parakeet-filled natural reserve. Volcan Masaya, the "Mouth of Hell", rose in the distance, shrouded with clouds, beautiful partially due to our not being able to smell the sulfur from all the way across the lake. And somehow, the last day was the first day that it rained, and friendly strangers crowded above us with umbrellas, giggling with us as we all got soaked and watched a parade that was supposed to celebrate horses but mainly seemed to celebrate energy drinks, medicine, and beer.
Of course there were exceptions, but they mainly stood out as 'good', or at least 'interesting', in contrast to the rest of the food we had in Nicaragua, not in contrast to the rest of the world. Granada's vigorón and Masaya's baho, two sides of the same yucca-chunked coin, looked like tidily wrapped presents in their bright green banana leaves. Chicharrones on one and beef on the other. Dry yucca on one and stewed yucca on the other. That cabbage-y salad on both, though with more onions on the latter. The first tasted like dried out vinegared potatoes with some wonderful crunchy oily pigskin goodness on it. The second had a little more homecooked charm, giving the depth and impression of someone stewing onions, vegetables, and spices in a cauldron (perhaps) for hours, stirring it with love and care. Unfortunately, they also stewed the meat for hours, leaving it totally unchewable.